Former Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas made an appearance in state court records again recently after his attempt to appeal the revocation of his law license by the Alabama State Bar was denied.
With very little detail, a disciplinary board issued an order in late May which said Thomas “failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he has the moral qualifications to practice law in this state.”
The board also said he failed to prove his return to the legal realm wouldn’t be “detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar or subversive to the public interest.”
In October 2009, a jury deadlocked on 14 charges against Thomas related to sex abuse, attempted sodomy and assault. The case stemmed from allegations Thomas had arranged prisoners to be delivered to his office in Government Plaza where he would engage in “spanking” them while their pants and underwear were removed.
Those allegations preceded Thomas’ exit from the bench in 2007, but charges weren’t brought against him by the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office until 2009. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Deborah Rhodes’ office received an order Jan. 21, 2009 allowing recusal for unspecified “conflicts of interest or appearance of conflicts of interest pertaining to the case.” The order came down on the first day of a new presidential administration and change of leadership at the Department of Justice.
After local judges recused themselves from the case and the jury deadlocked, special Judge Claud Neilson eventually acquitted Thompson of all charges, ruling prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction on any of the related sexual charges.
That acquittal didn’t prevent Thomas from losing his license, which was initially suspended in March 2009 after his indictment. Following the trial, Thomas was disbarred twice by a disciplinary board. Though state bar officials and Thomas never openly discussed the proceedings, orders from the case gave some insight into the ultimate decision.
Thomas admitted to spanking multiple young men who would have only known him as “Judge Thomas,” but he claimed he never spanked or paddled any of the seven young men who testified during his disbarment hearings. Ultimately, the disciplinary board found Thomas to be “less than candid,” and “simply untruthful” in his testimony.
The board also specifically mentioned a belief that he had committed at least some of the crimes he’d been accused of previously.
“The board finds that these spankings and paddlings were not a form of mentoring or discipline but were rather engaged in by Thomas for his own sexual gratification,” the 2010 order concludes. “It is clear to the board that these young men were coerced into complying with Thomas under the threat of being sentenced to or returned to jail. Moreover, these spankings were not among those of the nature that a parent might give to their own child, but rather were sexually motivated assaults.”
A second disbarment was issued by the disciplinary board after Thomas was found to have practiced law with a suspended license. Both those instances occurred in late 2009 and early 2010. As is allowed under state law, Thomas appealed both disbarments to the Alabama Supreme Court — an appeal that was denied in an order issued Nov. 19, 2010, with no written opinion.
Thomas had to wait five years before he could request reinstatement to the bar, and that appears to be exactly what he did. Court records show Thomas ran an ad in the Mobile Press-Register March 18 giving notice of his appeal — a requirement of the state bar.
A formal hearing was held for Thomas’ petition on May 19. The disciplinary board comprised attorneys Alicia F. Bennett, Augusta Dowd, Thad Yancey, Jana R. Gardner and lay member Col. Ralph Mason.
The petition for reinstatement was denied and an order was filed the same day. At the hearing, Thomas was represented by Mobile attorney Jeff Deen, who also represented him throughout his criminal trial in Mobile.
Deen and Thomas declined an opportunity to comment on this report. In accordance with Alabama’s Rules of Civil Procedure, Thomas will have to wait at least a year to the day his appeal was denied before he can again petition the bar for reinstatement.